Amy Klobuchar's Got Your Big Infrastructure Hangin'
Amy Klobuchar is here to save the Very Concept of Infrastructure, rescuing it from just being a Trump-era punchline about whatever terrible week the "president" has had. Trump talked a lot about his great beautiful plan to rebuild America's roads and bridges and airports, but when he finally unveiled his plan, it wasn't the robust trillion-dollar investment he's talked about, but rather a proposal for about $200 billion in new federal spending, plus "private partnerships" that would steer big bucks to venture capital and contractors, and it went precisely nowhere in Congress. By contrast, Klobuchar has rolled out an actual proposal for a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan that would actually spend that much on infrastructure, not the wet fart Trump proposed. Let's look at what she has in mind!
For starters, Klobuchar acknowledges Trump's "plan" is a joke, or as she puts it "a mirage" that left the actual planning up to lawmakers, who promptly wandered off and did nothing. Klobuchar would instead make infrastructure her "top budget priority," to be passed in her first year, and notes that one of her big achievements in the Senate was pushing through the replacement of that freeway bridge that collapsed into the Mississippi River, getting it funded and built "in just 13 months" after the disaster.
Klobuchar has a seven-point plan and everything, so you know it's good stuff. She's start with $650 billion in direct federal funding for roads, bridges, and other transportation upgrades, plus $25 billion in "seed money" for an "Infrastructure Financing Authority" that would provide public/private funding for states to do infrastructure spending to the tune of $250 - $300 billion more, and there's your trillion bucks, OK?
In addition to roads and bridges, Klobuchar calls for investments in modernizing seaports, airports, and inland waterways, plus flood protection, what with all the climate change. Investment in "Climate Smart and Green infrastructure" would be a priority, although there's not a lot of detail on just what that would involve -- energy efficiency and upgrading the nation's electrical grid to handle all the challenges of green power generation maybe? That's touched upon again, briefly, in a call for modernizing public transport and railroads: not just more transit, but greener transit, too. (The phrase "Green New Deal" doesn't explicitly appear in the infrastructure plan, but Klobuchar is a co-sponsor of the Senate bill introduced by Ed Markey.)
The plan also calls for massive investments in rebuilding public schools and public housing, too, noting that
A 2017 survey found that half of America's public school buildings need improvements to be considered in "good" condition. And while school building conditions are a national problem, the disrepair of America's public schools disproportionately affects students in low-income communities that cannot raise funds for maintenance, repair, or modernization.
In addition, Klobuchar includes rural broadband as part of her infrastructure deal, because that is a great big deal for schools and businesses in the non-urban part of the USA; we're not sure anyone's actually going to chant "Connect every household to the internet by 2022," but it's a worthwhile goal. And just to remind everyone that a Republican governor oversaw the lead poisoning of Flint, Michigan, Klobuchar's infrastructure package would ensure municipal water systems provide clean water for everyone, and good wastewater treatment, too. She missed a chance to promise that each new sewage treatment plant would be named after a different Trump cabinet member, though.
To pay for it, Klobuchar would go to that great gift Republicans gave 2020 Democrats in 2017, the Big Fat Tax Cuts for Rich Fuckwads. Her plan would raise the corporate tax rate from the Trump plan's 21 percent to a still fairly low 25 percent, and also seek to close "loopholes that encourage US companies to move jobs and operations overseas." But mostly it's the corporate tax rate. Klobuchar would also bring back Obama's "Build America Bonds," and create other bond thingies that would encourage infrastructure and green investments, which sounds nice, too.
It's a perfectly cromulent plan, and a damn sight better than anything the Great Builder has offered, particularly when he gets going on one of his love songs to asbestos.
Over at Vox, self-confessed "tedious infrastructure nerd" Matt Yglesias faults Klobuchar's plan just a little bit by noting that while it promises more spending on infrastructure, and that's always a nice thing, it also "doesn't really answer any of the interesting policy questions" about what should be a priority when it comes to rethinking infrastructure, like whether just building more roads is consistent with a shift to prioritizing energy efficiency. He notes, for instance, that some very traditional road projects have been given a fresh coat of greenwashing, like Oregon officials' claim
that widening a highway in Portland will reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the logic that faster-moving cars will burn less fuel. Decades of research indicate that this is not the case and that the new, larger highway will induce more driving, but the project evaluation framework in the United States fundamentally does not incorporate this insight.
Big questions like that aren't really in the Klobuchar outline, which he says is a shame, but is also "very much in keeping with Klobuchar's normcore political persona. She's not promising (or threatening) to transform America." But hey, at least he gives her credit for aiming money at "the nice stuff that people like" instead of spending public money on the super-rich, so hooray! EVERYONE is excited about infrastructure, and not just because Infrastructure Weeks always provide us such jolly gay times.
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